Two SFU community members named to 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada

November 08, 2022
Balqees Jama, left, and Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, right, were honoured at the CIBWE 100 Black Women to Watch awards in Mississauga, Ontario.

Two members of SFU’s community have been named to the Canada International Black Women Excellence’s (CIBWE) 100 Black Women to Watch list.

Balqees Jama, an undergraduate student, and Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, vice-president people, equity and inclusion, received the award, founded in 2015, to highlight Black women in Canada who have excelled in service to their communities.

“This award recognizes the labour of Black student activists, organizers and allies, who have long advocated for the university, government and society-at-large to do better for Black communities,” says Jama, an international studies and intended communications major and past president of the SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA).

Among that advocacy is helping ensure that Black students are supported through the SOCA Black Student Support Centre and Black mental health counselling as well as calling for the establishment of a SFU Black student centre. After Black student advocacy, SFU has also committed to hire at least 15 Black faculty, something Jama believes will enhance all community members' experiences.

“Racism is not just a thing of the past and is rife even here on campus,” says Jama. “The impact of our work over the last few years has been immense and will have positive implications for generations to come.”

Jama and Gilpin-Jackson received the award at the Black Pearl Evening Gala at the Oasis Convention Centre in Mississauga, Ont. on Oct. 15, 2022. The event celebrates 100 under-recognized Black women in Canada.

Named SFU’s inaugural vice-president, people, equity and inclusion in January, Gilpin-Jackson has led the development of the university’s new equity strategy and is building out equity positions within the university administration.

Previously, Gilpin-Jackson was chief people officer at the B.C. Lottery Corporation and founded Supporting Learning and Development Consulting Inc, which has helped to create systemic and social change in other B.C. organizations and businesses.

“Receiving Black community awards like CIBWE (and the Harry Jerome award previously), is deeply meaningful to me in that it signals the necessary turn, historically and in the present, of Black communities centering our own joy and celebrating ourselves, thus using marginality as a site of resistance (as per bell hooks, RIP) and for me, marginality as a site of transformation,” says Gilpin-Jackson. “It reminds us all that Black womxn do not need to wait to be seen, accepted and included into mainstream society to thrive."

“In celebrating ourselves, we take agency to transform social invisibility and remind our society that Black womxn and peoples have always been here contributing to Canadian society. Thank you to the team at CIBWE for continuing to hold this vision and take this stand for Black Canadian Womxn.”


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